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  • Staging and prognosis of lung cancer

    Staging means finding out if and where the lung cancer may have spread to. Your doctor will assign a staging category to your cancer which will help determine the best treatment. The staging category is worked out using your medical history and imaging and tissue biopsy information.

    Non-small cell and small cell lung cancer

    Stage 1 The tumour is in only one lobe of the lung and has not spread.
    Stage 2 The tumour has spread to nearby lymph nodes or has grown into the chest wall
    Stage 3A Tumours have spread to lymph nodes in the centre of the chest (mediastinum)
    Stage 3B Tumours have spread more extensively to lymph nodes in the mediastinum or have become attached to major blood vessels or the trachea (windpipe)
    Stage 4 The cancer cells have spread to distant parts of the body such as the bones, brain or liver


    Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You will need to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor but it is not possible for any doctor to predict the exact course of the illness. Instead your doctor can give you an idea about common issues that people with the same type of cancer experience. 

    As in most types of cancer the results of lung cancer treatment are best when the cancer is found and treated early. 

    Assessing prognosis

    Important factors in assessing your prognosis include:

    • test results
    • the type of cancer you have
    • the rate and extent of tumour growth
    • how well you respond to treatment
    • your age
    • fitness 
    • medical history. 

    Information last reviewed December 2014 by: Prof Kwun Fong, Thoracic and Sleep Physician and Director, UQ Thoracic Research Center, The Prince Charles Hospital, QLD; Clare Brown, Case Manager for Thoracic Surgery, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Glenda Colburn, Director, Lung Cancer National Program, The Australian Lung Cancer Foundation; Prof David Ball, Chair, Lung Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre; Dr Arman Hasani, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Paramita Dasgupta, Viertel Cancer Research Centre, Cancer Council QLD; Carmen Heathcote, Registered Nurse, Cancer Council QLD; Frances McKenzie, Cancer Connect volunteer, QLD.

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